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Climate Book Review: Finding the Mother Tree - Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest by Suzanne Simard

Maren explains climate, environment, problems and possible fixes and calls you to action.

Forest

A holloway - a path worn over centuries - through the woods.

A holloway - a path worn over centuries - through the woods.

Couldn't Put This Climate Book Down

I had wanted to read Finding the Mother Tree - Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest for a year before finally acquiring it. My personal passion with finding climate solutions leans to climate gardening, forest preservation and the like, more than towards mastering energy production technology. Therefore, this book naturally attracted me.

However, I was absolutely spellbound and couldn't put it down. I told friends the "latest" I had read each day and looked forward to my reading time each night.

Why?

I became intrigued by the irresistibility of this book and added "figuring out why" to my digestion and enjoyment of it.

As I described each day's reading to my best friend, the mystery of the book's appeal unraveled itself. The author is simultaneously providing four stories. They are:

  1. A history of the logging and forestry industry in Canada,
  2. Her unbridled excitement and continuing scientific curiosity as she uncovered new knowledge about the forest's trees,
  3. The struggles for a woman working in forestry research from the 1980s through the first two decades of the twenty-first century, and
  4. Her own ancestors' and her current family's story.

All of these are skillfully woven together in an irresistible package.

Helping the Reader Understand Forestry in British Columbia

I live in the eastern side of the United States in rolling farmland. Our forests are reserved for hunting, not logging. Therefore, I found it very helpful to have British Columbia's logging industry explained.

Simard not only describes the practices of the industry in the 1980s and after, but also attitudes of government foresters. There was a rather cozy meeting of the minds between the two groups. Both were comfortable with the status quo and were not especially keen on opening their minds to evidence that countered their positions.

Simard also explains how logging worked in the late 1800s and earlier. Generations of her family worked in logging, which connects her to a range of practices. Her own ancestors who employed "primitive" methods of logging were actually engaging in very sustainable practices. Her historical perspective is part of what led her to question: why did the forest heal and rebound in the past, but is now dying out?

Science Wrapped in Excitement

Simard's descriptions of her feelings are rare! She loves finding out stuff. New technology available at the end of the 20th century allowed her to "prove" what before had only been theorized.

Her joy at making solid, controlled, replicable findings about remarkable interactions are as big as the amazement Helen Keller reported feeling when she connected those odd finger positions and movements that her teacher Annie Sullivan was making in her hand with the substance water. (water was the first item that Keller connected to a signed word.)

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Simard's writing shares the sensation of feeling as if she had been given an additional sense!

And every discovery she made always led to new, tantalizing questions.

It is delightful to know how her mind worked.

(Also, her enthusiasm is something most of our high school science teachers wished we could show.)

Professional Women Struggle

I am a woman. Unfair treatment and gender prejudice are a fact of life for us.

I appreciated Simard's choosing to include how she was treated, what she suspected were the causes, and how she dealt with it. It is part of the story.

Spoiler alert: Simard rarely spent time on political games. Her ammunition was solid science.

The Book

Personal Story Done Lightly

Rounding out, or tying together, the story of finding the Mother Trees are very brief updates on Simard's childhood, her siblings, her own romances, and her children. The light touch satisfies my need to understand Simard as a whole person. It is just the right amount of information to develop the whole story without distracting from the main plot: what she is learning from the trees and forest.

Many photographs are included.

A Fifth Story

During Simard's decades of questioning, people of the First Nations and indigenous groups shared their beliefs regarding plants and land. When one examines sustainable use of lumber and tree products, they had it right a thousand years ago. Simard highly appreciated what she learned from them, but does not regard herself as an expert or a spokesperson. Therefore, I add this fifth stream of knowledge as a small bonus topic running through the book.

Book Also Comes in Large Print

If you know someone who prefers large print, this is available.

If you know someone who prefers large print, this is available.

Five Star Rating

If you, or someone you know, is interested in sustainable land use, women's issues, British Columbia, or biology research, I highly recommend Finding the Mother Tree - Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest. It is an intriguing, satisfying read!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Maren Elizabeth Morgan

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